Monsters

Frankenstein’s Monster

One of the most enduring horror icons, Frankenstein’s monster was born on one dark and stormy night in 1816.  The story of the friendly contest between Byron; his doctor, John Polidori; and the Shelleys has itself become legendary, but yet it does not explain the reasons for the durability of the Frankenstein story.  The original noel deals directly with fears both personal and social, as all good horror stories do, and the social fears it confronts are very much still with us.  More important, however, to Frankenstein’s continued use in other cultural products is the monster’s uniqueness and visibility.  Both pop and high culture have a multiplicity vampires and vampire images.  Orlok and Ruthaven, Lestat and Lilith, and Dracula, the king of them all—vampires, in multiple forms, abound.  Furthermore, with a few exceptions, vampires live within the community, “passing” as it were, Frankenstein’s creation is most visibly a monster, the “Other”; that is his tragedy.  Thus, by looking different, the monster becomes more visible.  The construction of the monster as portrayed by Boris Karloff has become particularly enduring, the “Ur” Frankenstein.  His appearance is perhaps more comic than horrific, leading to easier adoption into the pop culture mythos—from Frankenberry to Herman Munster.  Although more recent adaptations have attempted to redesign the monster, as in Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, none of these constructions has caught on in the popular imagination.  The fifties audience would have been particularly familiar with the Karloffian monster with James Whale’s version of Frankenstein and its multiple sequels being revived on television.  More than any other monster, the creation of Frankenstein appears in numerous early rock ‘n’ roll songs.

Frankenstein,” The Cadillacs

Frankenstein’s Den,” The Hollywood Flames

Don’t Meet Mr. Frankenstein,” Carlos Casal Jr.

"Another Saturday Night," Sam Cooke  

You Can Get Him Frankenstein,” The Castle Kings

Frankie Frankenstein,” Ivan

The Monster,” Bobby Please


Vampires

Considering the popularity of the vampire in popular culture, the paucity of rock ‘n’ roll songs is surprising.  Late-night TV horror movie host John Zacherle, often known as just Zacherle, had the biggest hit of the bunch with “Dinner with Drac,” which went to #6 on the Billboard charts stateside.  Across the Atlantic, the notoriously stuffy British censors banned the song.  Novelty king Allen Sherman of “A Letter from Camp (Hello, Muddah, Hello Faddah),” weighed in with “My Son, the Vampire.”  Another confirmed novelty act released "The Fang" as a follow-up to his hit "Transfusion."  And noted Phil Spector girl group The Crystals (“Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me”) apparently recorded a song called “Vampire,” but that side is lost in obscurity.

“Dinner with Drac,” John Zacherle

“My Son, the Vampire,” Allen Sherman

“Vampire,” The Crystals

"The Fang," Nervous Norvus


Werewolves

Werewolves were surprisingly popular in early rock 'n' roll songs.  They represented the predatory sexual drive that was bubbling under the surface of the culture of the era.  That drive was depicted as animalistic and even monstrous and particularly a danger to young girls in the backseats of cars parked on Lover's Lane, for that sexual desire was always male.  Female sexuality was rarely considered a potent force, and when it was, it had to be monitored and contained.  Male sexuality was potent, animalistic, and dangerous, thoroughly uncontainable just like a werewolf.

"You Bring Out the Wolf in Me," Piney Brown

Were-wolf,” The Kac-Ties

Were Wolf,” Carl Bonafede

I’m the Wolf Man,” Round Robin

Lil’ Red Riding Hood,” Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs


Monster Parties

In the late fifties and the early sixties, dance crazes, such as "The Mashed Potato," "The Pony-Time," and "The Swim" swept the nation.  It seemed everyone was getting in on the action, and monsters were no exception.  After all, if they could do "The Twist" at the Peppermint Lounge, they could do it in Dracula's castle, or the Wolfman's den, or the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein.  The most famous of all songs about a monster dance party is Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash," a Halloween classic.  However, less played today are numerous similar songs from such disparate artists as Chicago soul group the Daylighters and future game show host Bert Convy.

Bobby "Boris" Pickett

"Mad House Jump," The Daylighters

"Nightmare Hop," Earl Patterson

Midnight Monsters Hop,” Jack & Jim

The Monster Hop,” Jimmy Dee

The Monster Hop,” Bert Convy


Miscellaneous

Race with the Devil,” Gene Vincent

"The Gorilla," Bert Convy

"Juicy Crocodile," The Cellos

“Bo Meets the Monster,” Bo Diddley

I Was a Teenage Monster,” The Keytones

I Was a Teen-age Cave Man,” Randy Luck

Caveman,” Tommy Roe

“Caveman Hop,” Jerry Coulston

Leopard Man,” Joe Wallace

The Gila Monster,” Joe Johnson

“Witchcraft in the Air,” Betty Lavette

“Do the Zombie,” Chubby Checker

“Little Demon,” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

“Let’s Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here),” Zacherle

 

Back to Themes


Home  Themes Monsters Horror Haunts Dead Teenagers Intergalactic More Themes
Bibliography Site Index Credits